Earth to “Rail For Valley”

The “Rail For Valley” group has recently suggested to build a “light-rail line” from Chilliwack to Vancouver. Light rail is in quotations since their plan is more of a commuter rail line than an actual light-rail line.

Much of the route of this “light-rail” line duplicates existing rapid transit investments, which makes very little sense (The Millennium Line has been built, it makes no sense…why are they ignoring the Millennium Line? It’s delusional. Get over it: SkyTrain was built.)

This light-rail supporters also assumes that such a line would be able to use the existing right-of-way (ROW) rail corridor. The thing is, Translink must negotiate with the different rail operators to be able run such a line. Depending on the situation, transit service schedules must be planned around the schedule of the rail operators, which isn’t as easy a task as it sounds, especially for busy rail corridors like the ones used by Vancouver’s Amtrak and Via Rail. In recent years, the City of Vancouver and CP Rail have gone to court, fighting over the Arbutus ROW’s usage. (Keep mind that there will be more rail freight service as Vancouver grows as an Asian-Pacific Gateway, making it more difficult for transit planning).

The plan also assumes that Broadway is a wide boulevard that can handle centre medians when light-rail is built (thus, the absurd low estimates on the construction costs they have for LRT). Unfortunately, that is not the case, which is what UBC SkyTrain Group has been stating all along. Broadway will be restricted to one to two general lanes of traffic per direction, with kilometres of parking restrictions. Referring to previous engineering plans conducted in the 1999 technical study, there will be little room for centre median stations and almost no room for station expansions.

Service frequencies for such a line will also be low and will be more akin to a commuter rail line rather than a proper frequent light-rail line.

Rapid transit has many modes, and light-rail is just one of many modes: it is not the solution for every corridor and to every situation. It’s about time that light-rail supporters grasp that concept and figure out what they really want.


Not just for UBC

It’s astounding how the UBC SkyTrain is portrayed by some as the SkyTrain to UBC, and nothing else but UBC in between.  Right?  Wrong…terribly wrong. 

Let’s focus on potential station areas.  This is why the term “Millennium Line West Extension” should perhaps be used instead.

  1. Finning Station – There are many plans in redeveloping False Creek Flats area.  Initially part of False Creek, the area was filled in for industrial use early in the 1900’s.  Today’s, it’s still largely industrial but it is also the home to Great Northern Way Campus (a technology post-secondary campus formed by UBC, SFU, Emily Carr, and BCIT).  The campus is slated for a massive overhaul, which will be designed and planned largely around the station built in the middle of campus as part of the Millennium Line extension.
  2. City Hall Station – Linking up with the Canada Line, the City Hall area is already bustling commercial and residential area.  It is the Central Broadway Business District, an extension of the Downtown Vancouver core.
  3. South Granville Station – The South Granville area is one of the largest outdoor retail areas outside of the Downtown core.  The corner of Granville and Broadway is still busy area even when the transfer point for Richmond/suburbs bound passengers has been moved to Cambie/City Hall area. It is part of the Central Broadway Business District.

Of course, there are many more in between, but these areas are growing, have plans to grow, and will continue to grow.  The Millennium Line extension simply acts as a catalyst for increasing development.  Is this a line just for the students of UBC?  Sure, they can use it, but it’s not just for them. 

A full list of Millennium Line West Extension stations from the existing VCC-Clark Station:
– Finning
– Main Street/Kingsway
– Cambie (connects with Canada Line)
– Oak Street/Vancouver General Hospital
– Granville Street
– Arbutus Street
– Macdonald Street
– Alma Street
– Sasamat Street
– and finally, UBC

Notice how the proposed Millennium Line West Extension station locations parallels the stops on the existing 99 B-Line bus service, which carries more than 60,000 passengers per day. 99 B-Line bus stops:
– Commercial/Broadway
– Clark
– Main
– Cambie
– Willow/Vancouver General Hospital
– Granville
– Macdonald
– Alma
– Sasamat
– Allison (UBC Village)
– UBC Loop (UBC Terminus)

Canada Line seen as an early success

Canada Line riders fill coffers with cash

VANCOUVER – The Canada Line could reach its ridership goals sometime next year rather than in 2013 as forecast, TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie said Friday.

That would likely save TransLink — and taxpayers — millions in subsidies to the Canada Line’s private operator.

Hardie made the optimistic assessment after the line averaged 80,000 trips per day in its first five days of operations.

It had been forecast to reach 100,000 trips a day in 2013, and TransLink is required to subsidize the operator until that point is reached.

“The 100,000 ridership represents the point when the line generates enough revenue, with bus service savings to cover payment to the concessionaire,” Hardie said.

He said the steady passenger loads this week have been good news for the Canada Line.

Between 7 a.m. on Wednesday and 7 a.m. Thursday, the line recorded more than $45,000 in ticket sales, with $37,000 of that in cash and fare-saver tickets, $5,700 in credit and $2,900 in debit.

The number of cash sales, he said, likely means people are testing the system ahead of Sept. 7, when TransLink cancels or diverts several of its long-haul bus routes to Bridgeport Station to encourage passengers to ride the Canada Line.

“What that means is there’s a higher level of sampling going on now,” Hardie said, adding, “Things have got off to an excellent start on the Canada Line.”

The biggest peak in ridership has been in the afternoons, coinciding with the arrivals and departures of most international flights.

“There’s an incredibly steady flow of passengers,” said airport spokeswoman Rebecca Catley. “We’re seeing a lot more people coming off with bags. People have embraced it quickly.”

The airport has added extra staff on the floor to guide travellers to their departure lounges or help them find the train once they arrive in Vancouver.

August is typically the airport’s busiest month, with the third weekend usually recording the highest number of passengers coming through.

But Catley said it’s not just travellers using the Canada Line: More people are coming to the airport to watch planes land and take off from the airport’s new observation deck.

“It’s just surprising. That area has always been very quiet and now it’s teeming with people,” she said. “Everything has gone very smoothly; the people are very excited.”

Jason Chan, spokesman for Canada Line operator ProTrans BC, said other busy stations are Waterfront in downtown Vancouver and Richmond’s Bridgeport, the only station where TransLink has a park-and-ride facility at the nearby River Rock Casino.

Just before 4 p.m. Friday, swarms of people were pouring in and out of Waterfront as packed trains headed out toward Richmond-Brighouse and the airport.

Kathleen Lapointe, who lives in Richmond, took the train into Vancouver for a course and said she’s “planning to use it all the time now.”

“I’m very happy,” she said. “I’m so glad it’s here.”

Source: Vancouver Sun

Now to be fair, there are still many passengers taking the Canada Line for their own personal enjoyment, but much of it is now everyday commuters as well as passengers to the airport.   On average, there are at least three passengers on board each train car with luggage, presumably going to the Airport or Sea Island Centre, Air Canada Operations.  It’s safe to say that the Canada Line has been more successful then previously anticipated.  In fact, ProTrans BC, the private company operating the Canada Line, feels slightly under staffed and is continually hiring station attendants.  Station attendants not only help passengers with the Canada Line and related transit connections, but also do fare checks, something the SkyTrain attendants do not  usually do.  Personally, I received more fare checks on the Canada Line than I have on the SkyTrain system for more than two years.

70,000 board the Canada Line on first day of revenue operations

Impressive numbers.

The numbers do include people touring the Canada Line and the novelty will eventually wear off, but it will only result in a marginal dip in ridership over the next few weeks. The Canada Line’s initial ridership success is a good sign for things to come, and bus integration hasn’t even occurred. We are well in our way into achieving 100,000 boardings per day.

The Irony

One finds it interesting how the SkyTrain lobby warps the truth to suit it’s own ends. What the SkyTrain lobby is really saying is that; “We completely discount over one hundred and fifty years of rail/light rail/metro development, to support a unconventional, proprietary railway.” That only seven such systems have been built (actually there are two types of SkyTrain systems, the old UTDC ICTS/ALRT system and Bombardier’s updated ART system), with two of the systems, Vancouver’s SkyTrain and Toronto’s Scarborough Line, being forced upon the operating authority by senior governments, is testament of the non-popularity of the light metro. The SkyTrain version that has managed a few sales is Bombardier’s ART light-metro system, which has been sold as a “prestigious” airport people movers or fun-fair transit system and only Kuala Lumpur operates a ART system as a regional metro system, along side both conventional light-metro and monorail.

The UBC SkyTrain boys and girls take umbrage with RFV posting of a letter sent to various news papers, so let’s have a look what they say.

As mentioned previously, there are only seven cities that have built with the SkyTrain ICTS/ALRT/ART system, over a 30 year span.

SkyTrain can cost up to ten times more to install (TTC ARTS Study) than light rail. When compared to other North American Light Rail systems, SkyTrain cost 2 to 5 times more to install and operating costs for ALRT/ART are higher than comparable LRT systems.

This is Honolulu’s second attempt to build with SkyTrain as the first attempt collapsed due to massive cost of the light-metro. One doubts that SkyTrain will be built in Honolulu, especially when politicians have just found that the costs quoted in Vancouver for SkyTrain were direct costs only, not total costs which is the norm in the USA. The same issue sunk the Seattle Monorail project. It also must be remembered that Honolulu’s planners want an elevated system, yet their projected ridership numbers do not warrant such an expense.

It is true that SkyTrain, or ART, is more expensive, but one must not compare ART with LRT.  ART is a fully segregated system and most LRT’s built today are not fully segregated.  Of course LRT costs less if it can be built integrated with traffic.  However, if LRT was built using similar construction methods as ART, the costs will be quite close (as shown with the Evergreen Line, requiring similar amounts of tunneling and elevated guideways as the SkyTrain option).  

Due to the heavy congestion on Honolulu’s Interstate and artery roads, planners and politicians are a greater need for rapid transit.  In fact, it was those same politicians that have voted for a higher capacity, faster fully segregated metro system.  Projected ridership numbers are higher than that of the Canada Line, at 116 000 passengers per day.  At bare minimum, forecast numbers show 90 000 passengers per day.

The projected ridership for the Canada line is pure ‘pixie dust’, as it assumes that almost three times more people from Richmond, South Delta & Surrey will use transit to Vancouver than presently do and is not based on scientific assessment, rather it is a political guesstimate.

Using 2007 numbers, which are much lower than the ridership on the 98 B-Line today, the 98 B-Line moved over 27 500 passengers.  This number is over 30 000 passengers.  Adding that to the ridership on Suburban buses, plus local buses such as the 10-Granville and 15-Cambie,  this number is well over one third of the projected ridership of the Canada Line.

In addition, many developments are just about to be complete around Richmond-Brighouse Stn.  Richmond plans to fully develop around the Canada Line, expecting 80 000 more residents.  Of special mention, Pinnacle and Concord Pacific owns a plot of land at the future Capstan Way Stn, expected to be developed over the next few years.  Furthermore, the City of Vancouver council is supporting a rezoning application by a development off of Marine Drive Stn by PCI and Busby Perkins+Will.   The City of Vancouver has also transformed Cambie between Olympic Village Stn and Broadway-City Hall Stn, with a mix of big-box retail, dense residential, and office complexes.  The Vancouver Airport Authority also has plans in building offices around Templeton Station.

Yet when the 98-B Line bus was instituted in Richmond, ridership dropped from what the old 403, 402, and 401 bus routes with direct services to Vancouver, carried. Again the SkyTrain lobby ignores the singular fact that forced transfers deters ridership.

This is quite a different comparison.  In addition to cutting off the Vancouver portion, TransLink also reduced services for the 401, 402, and 403 buses.  In our case right now, the frequency of  thee buses  increase.  It is also different because the 98 B-Line was not faster than the original bus service as opposed to the Canada Line, which is at least 20 minutes faster than the current bus service.

More importantly, above all, it was the four-month transit strike that really affected the ridership for these routes (and for that matter, all bus routes in the region). The strike occurred before the implementation of the 98 B-Line, and a deep service cut occurred one month after.

This comment is absolutely silly, if the author took time to investigate; in North America, rapid transit systems that connect to the airport, including Chicago and San Fransisco, see little ridership.

Tell that to London and the DLR and Hong Kong’s Airport Express.  Daily ridership on the entire BART is also 346 504 passengers; I can’t see how that is “little ridership.”  It is also important to note that BART also has a fare surcharge of $5.00 to the airport from downtown, more than the $2.50 AddFare TransLink is proposing.

Again, the author discounts the great cost differences for LRT and SkyTrain. Sorry, taking the car will be faster and more convenient as studies have shown that for residents in South Delta and South Surrey, being forced to take RAV will increase average journey time, especially off-peak, which is hardly a good selling point. Again, I must remind the SkyTrain lobby it is not the speed of the ‘rapid transit’ that attracts customers but the speed and ease of the entire journey; RAV. with forced transfers which will not be an attractive alternative.

Unless buses feeding RAV run on the same frequencies as RAV, they will not be competitive with the car. Your numbers are misleading as your 5 minute transfer time is not realistic. Most car drivers would spend another 15 minutes in their car rather than take a bus, transfer to RAV and transfer again to another bus. RAV is just not a competitive alternative to the car.

Clearly, one hasn’t read any of the explanations the UBC SkyTrain Group has mentioned in the last post.   A 5 minute transfer time is in no way unrealistic: the transfer is from the bus up two escalators to the platform.   In fact, a normal commuter will take less than that.  This isn’t a transfer from Bridgeport Street and Oak Street Bridge to Bridgeport Station, this is a transfer from a bus loop directly under Station, to the platform.  It is also important to note that there is a Park & Ride that will attracting potential Canada Line commuters that do not want to be stuck in traffic on Oak Street Bridge and beyond.  Park and Rides are pretty much what makes LRT systems successful in North America.

It is ironic that one is lecturing us about a transfer.  Zweisystem wants LRT to be built for the Broadway Corridor even though it creates an extra transfer at Commercial Drive Station.  The UBC SkyTrain Group, on the other hand, wants an extension of the Millennium Line SkyTrain to reduce a transfer.  Oh the irony…

The UBC SKyTrain Group supports a transfer at Bridgeport Station because it saves time for commuters using transit.  While it does create a little bit of a hassle, the benefits such as the time savings and increase of frequency to the suburban buses are worth the transfer.  TransLink has said that the buses will come at least every 15 minutes, upgrading buses to Frequent Transit Network requirements.

Actually it’s not false but very accurate that a subway needs 400,000 to 500,000 passengers a day to justify the investment. The figure comes from UBC Professor Condon but it is also illustrated by the fact that subways are avoided at all costs due to high costs. You can build a subway with less ridership potential, but be expected to pay higher subsidies to support it. Finally your comment is illogical, for if a subway was viable for ridership flows of 100,000 a day, more cities would be burrowing underground.

The Expo Line today has paid off its construction costs and is also fully recovering its operational expenses from fares.  Ridership of 100,000/day is the magic number for breaking even on Canada Line operational expenses, and that number is quite realistic in the very near future as evident with the numbers we’ve seen these past few days.

And if we had built with LRT instead, we could have had it in operation two years ago, your argument is without foundation.

Yes, but the Arbutus corridor was a slower route and would’ve provided only marginally faster travel times to Richmond Centre than the current 98 B-Line.  More importantly, employment and residential densities around Arbutus are simply insufficient to support such a line.

Passengers in subways do not see surface stores and restaurants and do not get off trains to patronize them. The opposite is true for light rail, where merchants adjacent to the LRT line see about a 10% increase in business once the line opens. Your comments are disingenuous.

Businesses benefit because passengers are provided with a fast connection to the key business areas, and these areas see growth.  At the end of the day, the transportation element is the most vital part: it is not a stop-and-go taxi that brings businesses right to their door.

In fact, with that logic, we should be building streetcars so that passengers get a slower view at the stores.

The point of building SkyTrain and Metros is to first build regional transportation infrastructure and then have light rail and streetcars act as a regional connection and feeder system from the higher capacity systems.  This is what is done in Europe: the London Light Rail systems feed off of the London Underground.  Hong Kong’s Light Rail in New Territories feed off of the MTR.  San Francisco’s MUNI is located above the BART system acting as a feeder to San Francisco communities as well as acting as the higher capacity system.

The costs soared because the costs for subway construction were deliberately misleading from the start! The switch from SkyTrain to a generic metro was done to save the cost of over 40 km. of the expensive reaction rail needed for the Linear Induction Motors.

No, there wasn’t a switch from SkyTrain to Conventional Rail.  There were three bids made on the Canada Line project: one from Bombardier proposing ART of course, one from SNC-Lavalin and ROTEM proposing conventional rail, and others from a collaboration of companies including the MTRC proposing conventional rail.   In the end, SNC-Lavalin’s bid won.  There was no switch from the beginning.  Clearly, there is a lack of knowledge of the Canada Line project on your part.

Actually the capacity of a Canada Line car is 163 passengers, using the industry standard of all seat occupied and standees @ 4 persons per m/2; the figure of 200 per car is derived at crush loading, all seats occupied and standees @ 6 persons m/2. Do the math, even with the third car, the RAV Line barely match LRT’s capacity of over 20,000 persons per hour per direction.

Yes, but the travel times are much shorter using the conventional rail over LRT.  The LRT option did not meet Transport Canada minimum time requirements for funding.

You are dead wrong here. Light rail can operate at 30 second headways, and do it day in and day out on scores of LRT operations around the world. Actually LRT can operate at a faster commercial speed than metro if it is designed to. RAV faster commercial speeds come from sacrificing stations along the line. By your logic, having no intermediate stations and an extremely fast metro line would attract hundreds of thousands of riders – NOT! Obviously you haven’t done any research on transit and your lack of knowledge on the subject is telling.

If LRT was designed to do that, it means it is fully segregated or built to light metro standards, making it much more expensive.  That obviously won’t be the case for Broadway, nor is there a pre-existing right of way we could use. Light rail cannot reach a frequency of every 30-secs on a street like Broadway, with all the traffic, traffic lights, intersections, and pedestrian crossings. Trains will simply bunch up, as they do with the 99 B-Line buses during peak hours. This has been debunked thoroughly by UBC SkyTrain in previous articles and posts in our blog.

You overstate the employment centres as hospitals, with nurses and staff working odd shifts and 12 hour days are not good transit revenue generators. The real question about employment centre is how many people working at those employment centre, live near RAV to use it?

The Arbutus route had the higher density and the many shops spread along it’s route would have also been good revenue generators, a fact ignored by RAVCo. & Co. Again you confuse commercial speed with journey speed; a slightly longer trip, serving more destinations, may have attracted more customers.

Like mentioned earlier, the City of Richmond already has plans for increasing density around the Canada Line stations, expecting 80 000 more to live around the No. 3 Rd corridor and Olympic Oval area in the decades to come.

The Arbutus route has density in just one main area: Kerrisdale. And maybe at Central Broadway, although it is only the western tip of it.

Actually the HST has a lot to do with the RAV and Evergreen Lines as the provincial government needs the extra revenue to pay for their hugely expensive transportation projects, your ignorance of this is nothing short than appalling.

HST puts BC in a competitive economic position.  Eventually, provinces will move to the HST model and that is known: the question is when.  The Province has finally decided to heavily invest in public transit infrastructure, ones that were needed a decade ago.   All of these transit plans we’re seeing were previously proposed in the 1996 Greater Vancouver Regional District Livability Plan.

What foolish nonsense which smacks of ‘penis envy’. Vancouver doesn’t have the population as Tokyo, hong Kong and San Fransisco to support a metro, let alone a metro connection to the airport. did you know that BART line to San Francisco’s airport carries a mere 10,000 a day?

Vancouver doesn’t, but will no doubt be home to many more people in the future.  Investing in rail infrastructure requires long term planning.  We need a public transit system that is able to carry more people and investing in faster, higher capacity systems is the way to go to attract general commuters to transit instead off driving.

I’ve no desire to get drawn into the Vancouver transit wars, and, anyway, most of the rest of the world has moved on. To be fair, there are clear advantages in keeping with one kind of rail technology, and in through-routing service at Lougheed. But, eventually, Vancouver will need to adopt lower-cost LRT in its lesser corridors, or else limit the extent of its rail system. And that seems to make some TransLink people very nervous.

It is interesting how TransLink has used this cunning method of manipulating analysis to justify SkyTrain in corridor after corridor, and has thus succeeded in keeping its proprietary rail system expanding. In the US, all new transit projects that seek federal support are now subjected to scrutiny by a panel of transit peers, selected and monitored by the federal government, to ensure that projects are analyzed honestly, and the taxpayers’ interests are protected. No SkyTrain project has ever passed this scrutiny in the US.”

It is true that Vancouver will need to adopt lower-cost LRT in its lesser corridors.  This is a fact.  This is why, for instance, LRT was built in Hong Kong for the New Territories.  But the problem is the Richmond-Airport-Vancouver corridor is a major corridor, along with the Broadway corridor. Both corridors require competent and quick transit modes.

To clarify again, the UBC SkyTrain group only supports SkyTrain in particular cases.  We do not choose a technology for a route without prior research and local experience for that particular corridor.  In fact, we believe it is necessary for LRT to be built in the South of Fraser areas, particularly along King George Hwy, and in the Fraser Valley. SkyTrain is simply the region’s backbone transit connector.  Like with all rail infrastructure projects we’ve seen in the past in this region, BRT should be introduced to guarantee ridership before investing into LRT/ART.

A Canada Line debunking

The folks at “Rail For The Valley” have written another “scathing” article with regards to the Canada Line.  We would like to respond to a few of their “points” they made in their letter to the Editor to the Vancouver Sun, which has refused to publish it for good reasons.  The letter can be seen here.

The Editor;

Today’s editorial praising the RAV/Canada Line was predictable; the Vancouver Sun supported this behemoth since its inception.

Sadly, the paper has done its readers a disservice as the Canada Line metro/subway is the epitome of failed transit philosophy from the 1950’s. Has the Sun’s Editorial Board ever noticed that no one is building with SkyTrain and very few with metro? Ever wonder why?

First of all, once again, there are many cities in the world with “SkyTrain” technology (or “SkyTrain-like” technology, fully grade separated systems like the Canada Line).  A full list of the cities can be found on our website, here.   It is known that SkyTrain is marginally more expensive compared to conventional rail and LRT, but there are many benefits with SkyTrain technology.  In fact, Bombardier’s SkyTrain is the front runner for Honolulu’s upcoming metro system. It is heavily based on the SkyTrain system in Vancouver, due to the lower capital costs.

Metro/subways are never planned for unless projected ridership on the line exceeds 400,000 to 500,000 a day. If a metro line does not carry such numbers it must be heavily subsidized; the fewer the passengers the higher the subsidy! Higher subsidies translates into road tolls and higher property taxes.

But there is more. Subways have proven very poor in attracting new ridership and the Canada Line may very well force more people into cars.

The Canada Line is too costly to be extended and as designed will only offer faster journey times to those who live and work near RAV stations. For many, taking the car will be faster than taking a bus transferring to RAV at Casino Junction and possibly transferring to another bus to complete their journey.

One can lose upwards of 70% of potential ridership per transfer.

A metro system’s speed does not attract ridership itself, rather it is the speed of the overall journey that is important. Studies have shown that RAV will increase journey times for most current bus customers, who will lose their direct ‘Express’ buses and be forced to transfer onto the metro.

The projected ridership for the Canada Line is 100 000 passengers per day.  There is a need for a reliable, high capacity, and high frequency rapid transit connection between downtown Vancouver and Richmond City Centre and the ridership on the suburban bus routes along. The ridership on the 98 B-Line, serving the same corridor as the Canada Line (and in which the Canada Line was built to parallel), clearly shows this. There is a reason why the 98 B-Line is one of the busiest bus routes in the region with the second highest ridership levels, second only to the 99 B-Line. Both are express services that rival the speed of other transportation modes along their corridors.

The Canada Line is expensive, but will be worth it in the long run as it puts Vancouver in a competitive economical advantage over most North American cities that don’t have a metro connection to the airport.

The Ministry of Transportation has made it clear that road tolls would not be implemented on existing road infrastructure.  While TransLink has suggested its implementation, there are no concrete plans.  It will also be difficult for TransLink to implement these as most of the region’s roads and bridges are under Ministry of Transportation jurisdiction and not TransLink.

The Canada Line may be costly to extend and expand, but that is with all transit infrastructure.  Taking a car will not be faster than taking a bus plus the additional transfer at Bridgeport.  Currently, busing from Richmond to Downtown takes about 45 minutes during most hours of the day. With the bus integration effective on September 7th, the new transfer will take about 5 minutes for an average person to walk from the bus loop up to the platform.  Assuming one just misses a train at Bridgeport, the next train will arrive in 3 minutes during peak hours.  It takes 19 minutes to SkyTrain from Bridgeport to Waterfront Stn.  Total time on transit with the transfer from Richmond takes 27 minutes, 18 minutes faster than bus, not counting the the 10 minute wait for Oak Street Bridge.  And with a shortened route for south of Fraser express buses, it enabled Translink to run a higher frequency for these routes with more buses running on a shorter route, and without having to deal with the congestion on the bridges and roads into Vancouver nor the congestion in Downtown.

It is is absolutely false that subways require 400,000 to 500,000 boardings per day to justify its existence. Capacity of subway systems, or rather ALL rail systems, is dependent on the frequency of trains, the size of trains, and most importantly the ultimate platform size of trains. It has NOTHING to do with train infrastructure being built underground. Many underground systems have been built to deal with ridership less than 500,000 boardings per day.

And finally, to suggest that these subways, or our own SkyTrain and Canada Line, are heavily subsidized would be equivalent to saying it did not cost a penny to build them in the first place.

The Canada Line P-3 was a charade and the consortium which built the subway used cheap foreign labour and a ‘bait & switch’ from bored tunnel to cheaper cut-and-cover subway construction. The recent successful action by Cambie St. merchant, Susan Heyes, against TransLink, may wipe out any cost savings the switch as more merchants are now suing TransLink. At no time did the consortium assume risk on RAV, as the taxpayer will soon find out.

While it was unfortunate that the Canada Line was built using cut-and-cover construction, the actual cost of cut-and-cover and bored tunnel isn’t as significant as it really is: in fact, a bored tunnel is only marginally more expensive.  Cut-and-cover was used to guarantee the completion of the Canada Line system before the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.  In the end, we have a rapid transit link that arrived three months ahead of schedule.  However, TransLink did not switch construction methods.  It was assumed that the Canada Line would have been built using tunnel boring machines while the construction methodology had always been up to the bidding consortiums.

The lawsuit by Cambie St. maerchant, Susan Heyes, was not just against TransLink, but also the private company which will be operating the Canada Line.   The cost of the lawsuit is split between the two, meaning less burden on taxpayers.  The case is being appealed. It is unfortunate that many merchants suffered from construction, but at the same time merchants should remember they will benefit from the Canada Line down the road.

The sad fact about the RAV/Canada Line, as its costs soared above the original estimate of $1.3 billion, the scope of the project was greatly reduced. As built, RAV/Canada Line has roughly half the capacity of a light rail line built down Cambie St. or the dreaded Arbutus Corridor. To bring the RAV metro up to just LRT’s capabilities, one would have to invest at least another billion dollars and do the cut-and-cover thing all over again on Cambie St.!

What the RAV/Canada Line really is, is a hugely expensive, politically prestigious, under built metro system, like a cheap Xmas train-set, that will fail to attract sufficient patronage to justify its construction.

The cost of the project soared due to inflated materials prices and the cost of labour. The $1.3-billion figure was first pushed around when the project was first proposed in 2002, and surely you wouldn’t ignore the fact that there was a wide gap between the date of when the project was proposed and the date of when construction actually started: higher construction costs are to be expected.  

The Canada Line is not half the capacity of the proposed light rail system on Arbutus.  The ultimate capacity of the Canada Line is 15 000 passengers per hour per direction, which is the capacity of the current Expo Line during peak hours.   Yes, the trains on the Canada Line are short, but they are also wide and can carry 400 passengers at crush-load capacity and can handle an addition hundred passengers with a third “C-car”. In addition, more trains can be added to the Canada Line; the control system can handle a train every 90 seconds, just like our current SkyTrain.  LRT cannot do that because it’s not automated.  Furthermore, LRT cannot be faster than current Canada Line unless it was built with metro standards, being fully segregated from traffic.  As stated in the City of Vancouver technical study completed  in 1999, SkyTrain, or in our case, the Canada Line, will have an average speed of 35 km/hr, 10 km/hr higher than LRT.  Just looking at the shorter trains is simply shallow-thinking.

The Arbutus corridor is also a longer route that would have increased travel times to upwards of 30-minutes. The route also lacks employment centres needed to attain ridership (On Cambie you have: Central Broadway business district, City Hall, VGH and medical campus, future hospital and developments at 33rd Avenue, Children’s Hospital, Oakridge Centre which will be redeveloped, and Langara Colleg. Cambie is also near the centre of the city, unlike Arbutus. Arbutus only the has western tip of Central Broadway and Kerrisdale for employment centres).

And one wonders why TransLink is in such financial peril and Campbell has forced the phony ‘carbon’ or gas tax and HST onto the public?

Light Rail Committee
Box 105, Delta, BC
V4K 3N5

Not so sure how the carbon tax or HST has anything to do with the Canada Line, but now that it is brought up, the carbon tax simply encourages people to consume less, which leads to more public transit users.  How is that a bad thing?  The HST has nothing to do with the ridership, cost, or success of the Canada Line.

We believe the Canada Line is a crucial transportation link to Metro Vancouver and puts us in an advantage to many cities.  World-class cities all have metro links to the airport, namely London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and San Francisco, not light rail.  Vancouver would be the first city in Canada to have rail infrastructure to the airport, let alone a metro line instead of LRT, and the second city in the North American west coast with a metro to the airport, behind San Francisco and the successful BART system.

Just for the record, the Canada Line is designed with the Millennium Line extension in mind, built as SkyTrain, as there are provisions for a future underground Cambie Station for the Millennium Line with connections to the Canada Line station.

LRT Accident in San Francisco

An accident involving two light rail trains in San Francisco has injured over 40 people, causing delays for the entire six line light rail system.  This accident happened at West Portal Station, which serves four of the light rail routes in San Francisco.  This is one of the largest light rail accidents in recent history, though less tragic than the Metro accident that claimed 7 lives in Washington, D.C several weeks ago.  At this point, it is not known whether it is a mechanical failure or human error, but what is known is that accidents can also happen on light rail systems.  This is just one more point for why the rapid transit rail extension to UBC must be built as a SkyTrain extension of the Millennium Line to prevent such accidents from occuring.  SkyTrain uses a rolling block signal system which allows it to operate high train frequencies safely. In its 23-year history, there has not been any major accidents with SkyTrain because of the reliability of the computer system with SkyTrain.  Should there ever be even the tiniest glitch in driverless operations, the entire SkyTrain system will be automatically shut down trains for manual inspection of problems..

Scores injured in San Francisco light-rail crash
The Associated Press

More than 40 people were taken to hospital after one light rail commuter train rear-ended another in San Francisco on Saturday, officials said.

Reuters reported that four people were in critical condition.

The San Francisco Municipal Railway L train ran into a K train at the boarding platform about 2:30 p.m. PT, officials said.

“This is probably one of the largest multiple-casualty incidents in recent years (in San Francisco),” said Pat Gardner, a deputy chief with the San Francisco Fire Department.

Gardner said 20 people suffered moderate injuries and another 21 were “walking wounded.”

Witnesses said the westbound L train barreled into the K train as it emerged from a tunnel connecting downtown San Francisco to the city’s western neighborhoods.

Judson True, a spokesman for the San Francisco Municipal Railway, said investigators were looking into “mechanical and human issues” that may have contributed to the accident.
Driver suffered serious injuries

The front of the L train was smashed and its operator was among the three with serious injuries. The K train suffered less damage, witnesses said.

They reported that more than a dozen people sat on benches along the boarding platform after the crash, some of them holding bloodied heads.

Rescue workers set up a triage system to isolate the most severely injured, bandaging their heads and immobilizing their necks on stretchers before they were trundled to waiting emergency vehicles.

“We thought a bomb went off,” said Mike Burke, a San Francisco banker who lives near the crash site.

“Lots of people (in the trains) were still sitting in their seats with their heads thrown back, stunned,” said his wife, Linda Burke.

Nine people were killed and more than 70 injured June 22 when a Metro train slammed into another train stopped on the tracks in Washington, D.C. The cause has not been determined but investigators say equipment that is supposed to detect stopped trains had failed periodically in the days leading up to the crash.

On May 8, more than 50 people were injured when a Boston subway trolley plowed into another train. Authorities say operator Aiden Quinn, 24, went through a red signal while typing a text message on his cellphone. Quinn was indicted on charges of grossly negligent operation and was scheduled to be arraigned Monday in Suffolk Superior Court. He faces three years in prison if convicted.

Source: CBC